Judicial Reforms

Law Commission calls for re-think on sedition clause


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 124A

Mains level: Broadening the Scope of Free Speech.


Considering Contempt of Government

  1. Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of a robust public debate in a vibrant democracy, said the Law Commission of India.
  2. The Commission published a consultation paper recommending that it is time to re-think or even repeal the provision of sedition (Section 124A) from the Indian Penal Code.
  3. The Commission has also posed the query that if contempt of court invites penal action, should “contempt of government” also attract punishment.
  4. The Commission asked whether it would be “worthwhile” to rename Section 124A and find a suitable substitute for the term sedition.

Right to Free Speech

  1. The Commission seeks to consider that right to free speech and expression is an essential ingredient of democracy.
  2. The Commission said an expression of frustration over the state of affairs cannot be treated as sedition.
  3. It recommended that India should not retain the British era clause to oppress Indians, whereas Britishers have themselves abolished the law in their country.
  4. It said every restriction on free speech and expression must be carefully scrutinized to avoid unwarranted restrictions.

Dissent is the safety valve of democracy, says SC

  1. The consultation paper was published a day after the Supreme Court lashed out at the forces while hearing a petition challenging the pan-India crackdown and arrests of five activists.
  2. For merely expressing a thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the government of the day, a person should not be charged under the Section.

Constructive Criticism is essential

  1. If the country is not open to positive criticism, there lies little difference between the pre- and post-Independence eras.
  2. Right to criticize one’s own history and the right to offend are rights protected under free speech.

Way Forward

  1. In a democracy, singing from the same songbook is not a benchmark of patriotism.
  2. People should be at liberty to show their affection towards their country in their own way.
  3. While it is essential to protect national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech, the Commission said in its consultation paper.
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